St. John's & Zion Lutheran Churches

Christ’s Advent Is At Hand

Sermon on Malachi 3:1

Text: “I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the LORD you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the LORD Almighty.

A number of years ago, a Family Circus comic appeared in the newspaper. It featured one of the children putting on his coat and asking his mother if he could take a walk. It seems that his grandmother was heard to say that “Christmas is just around the corner.” That child’s eager expectation is evident. We see that in most children as we get closer and closer to Christmas. As the trees go up and the lights decorate the houses and presents begin to appear under the tree, they know that “Christmas is just around the corner.” This morning, during this season of the year, we are reminded that CHRIST’S ADVENT IS AT HAND. 1. His Coming Was Foretold and 2. He Is The Messenger Of A New Covenant.

Our text is found in the book of Malachi. His book of prophecy is the last in the Old Testament. His is the last voice to speak before the birth of Jesus. Yet, even though his is the last voice, his message does not differ from the voice of Moses, as he records the events of the Fall into sin and the Promise of a Savior. Here, in the last book of the Old Testament, God also promises to send, “the LORD you are seeking.” Both in Genesis, the first book of the Old Testament and here in the last book, we find the hope that was given to the Old Testament people in the form of a Savior. Malachi gives a tone of hope and trust as the Old Testament closes.

In this verse, the Lord makes an announcement. He says, “I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me.” The messenger that the Lord is speaking about did come and prepare the way. He was John the Baptist. We know that John was born before Jesus. He spent several years in the desert before God came to him and told him what to say. He then went to the region of the Jordan and began to preach a message of repentance and forgiveness. He prepared the people of Israel for Jesus’ coming by, first of all, calling attention to their sins. He pointed out where they had failed in the keeping of God’s Law. He did not mince words, when it came to sin.

Yet, John did not leave the people cowering in the dust, for he also told them about the forgiveness that God offered to them. Later, when Jesus did come, John pointed him out to the crowds as “The Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29) When John was questioned about Jesus, he replied, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life.” (John 3:36) John recognized his role. He was to be the messenger of the Lord, the one who would prepare the way.

After the messenger had done his duty, we are told, “Suddenly the LORD you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come.” With these words, God again promises to send that Savior into the world. ‘The very one that you have been looking for since the Fall into sin; the one who will take away your sin will appear.’ God continues to show his love toward his people by repeating his promise again and again that a Savior would come.

Yet, even though God had made many promises to his people, this Savior would come “suddenly.” God gave many signs to his people that would surround the coming of his Son. He told them that a messenger would come, to prepare the way. He told them in Micah 5:2 that the Savior would be born in Bethlehem. In Isaiah 7:14 God told his people that a virgin would conceive and bear a son. There are many other examples of prophecies in the Old Testament, pointing ahead to the arrival of Jesus. Yet, when Jesus was born, it caught the world off guard. There were no people there to celebrate the birth of Jesus, except for Mary, Joseph and a few shepherds. The Jews, who had waited for centuries for the Messiah to be born, rejected Jesus, because he was not the type of Savior that they were looking for. Suddenly, the Savior was there and they missed him.

Jesus is described as “the messenger of a new covenant.” A covenant is a solemn promise or agreement. God had made a covenant with the world, already in Adam and Eve’s day. He repeated it when Moses brought the Ten Commandments down from Mount Sinai. There God said, if you keep these requirements perfectly, you will be blessed. If you do not keep them, you will be cursed. It was a very simple agreement. There was just one problem – not on God’s part, but on the part of all people. No one can keep God’s laws perfectly. You cannot. I cannot. Each of us has sinned. If you have any doubt about that, take your life and compare it to what God says in his Word. Have you always done what it says? Have you always given your parents and others in authority the obedience and respect that is due them? Have you ever been ashamed of being a Christian, hoping that no one would find out? The list goes on and on, and the end result is the same. God does not look the other way when sin is committed. He demands perfection, and we cannot give it to him. Since this is true, we deserve from our God his eternal wrath and punishment.

Yet, we praise our God, who is also a God of love and mercy. Because we could not keep his Law perfectly, he sent his Son to do so. God demanded payment for our sins. However, rather than having us pay the debt that we owed, God took the payment from his Son as he suffered the agonies of hell and died on the cross. So that we might be sure that the payment was made in full, God raised his Son from the dead. Then, God set up a new covenant. He tells us, if we believe in Jesus as our Savior, we have eternal life. Note the difference between the two covenants. In the first one, our eternal life depended on what we did. The second one depends on God’s grace and mercy. In the second one, we do nothing. Even the faith that receives God’s forgiveness is given to us through the working of the Holy Spirit. This new agreement assures us that, when our time on this earth reaches its end, we will be with Jesus forever in heaven. Jesus tells us through his Word about the way to salvation. He is that “messenger of the covenant” that appeared “suddenly.”

Just as the Old Testament believers were to be ready to receive the messenger at any time, so also we are to be ready when Jesus “suddenly” appears. Jesus and the apostles gave us many signs of the end of the world. We are told of earthquakes and famines, of wars and rumors of wars, of persecution and the general lovelessness of mankind. All of these things are signs that the end is coming.

Yet, even with all of these signs, the world will be caught off guard when Jesus comes again. Jesus compares his coming to that of a thief in the night. Jesus said in Luke 12:39, “Understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into.” The thief caught the owner of that house unaware. So also, the world will be caught unaware at Jesus’ Second Coming.

Yet, on that day, when Jesus “suddenly” appears, we will not need to be afraid. We know that we believe in Jesus as our Savior from sin. We know that, because of his work, we will be enjoying all of the blessings and the happiness of heaven. Because of this sure knowledge, we can rejoice when the Last Day comes. Such will not be the case for those who chose to reject Jesus and what he did for them. Then the suddenness of that day will fill them with great fear. They will come face to face with God and receive the full punishment for their sins. From that point on, they will be forever separated from God’s love. The suddenness of that day will be a source of great terror for them.

When the Lord comes again, it will be suddenly. May God keep us faithful to the end. May we be faithful servants, actively doing those things which our Lord would have us do. May he find none of us sleeping in our sins, but hard at work. We do not know when Jesus’ second advent will be. We have not been given that information. Yet, we can look forward to it confidently because of what God has done for us. In the meantime, let us always be alert, waiting for our Lord to return. We live our lives in eager anticipation, because Christ’s advent is at hand. Amen.